Monday, May 18, 2009

RealID: Not a Real ID

At TechRepublic, there is an article entitled Why REAL ID is not Secure ID. I commented there:

I am of two minds on the utility of a national ID card. As a nationalist, I like the idea of distinguishing citizen from non-citizen. But as a lover of liberty, I despise anything that extends power to the federal government. I go back and forth on this one.

But a big problem with RealID is that to obtain one a person need only supply less-secure items such as a Social Security card or State driver's license (which are often based in turn on a birth certificate plus a utility bill or two). It turns items that are easier to forge into a token that is harder to forge, and which will confer on its bearer rights he or she should not have. In security terms, it attenuates trust.

Far from combating identity theft, RealID would make it easier.

It's typical of the pattern we find for the introduction of a new product or service: make it easy to use, to spur adoption, and then play security whack-a-mole as problems are discovered.

While having a national ID card would make it easier for law enforcement officials to distinguish illegal aliens and terrorists from ordinary folks, it would not be a sufficient mechanism for doing so. Further, there is no guarantee that an ID card would be used for that purpose.

The potential for abuse, both by people obtaining false cards and by law enforcement, is staggering.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Neal Tire and Auto of Mattoon, Illinois: Frantic Wave-Off

I bought a set of tires from Neal Tire and Auto Service in Mattoon, Illinois. I needed tires in a hurry, and after calling around this was the place with the best price on the tires I needed. An acquaintance, an elderly widow, had trouble with them not replacing her oil drain plug after an oil change. They had made good on that mistake somehow, I told myself. Hey, mistakes happen.

So it was time to get the tires rotated and oil changed. Neil Tire and Auto Service in Mattoon, Illinois assured me at the time I bought the tires that they would use the Mobil 1 full synthetic oil in my diesel Jetta. I had noticed what felt like tire balance issues at highway speed. I made an appointment for 2pm, allowing 3 hours before my next schedule item at 5pm. I thought I could get home for a while after the oil change. I mean, three hours?

So I took my lunch in to the waiting area. An older lady, well-dressed and hair coiffured, sat reading the newspaper.

Two hours in, they told me they were having trouble getting the lug nuts off. I could hear the pneumatic wrench grinding away. I wondered if I should have brought a cot. I also wondered how well they would balance the tires, since closing time was coming up and there were people waiting.

The old woman was snoring quietly in the waiting room.

After it was done, with 45 minutes left before 5pm, they told me the price, and it was $30 less than I expected. I asked what kind of oil they used. They told me they'd used Rotella. Why didn't they use synthetic? Blank look. "We always use Rotella on diesels." Realizing that the engine had had full synthetic in it since it rolled off the lot, I dropped the F-bomb. Why didn't they use Mobil 1? The clerk was polite, despite my obvious anger. Same blank look. "We always use Rotella on diesels. "

Every other place I've taken my Jetta to have the oil changed has warned me to use full synthetic.

Mobil 1 is listed on their in-store advertising, but Rotella is not.

After consultation with my wife, who's a lot tougher about stuff like this than I am, I said I wanted them to replace the oil with Mobil 1, and no, I wasn't going to pay the difference. "We always use Rotella -- I think that's good enough", he repeated with a shrug. Still, they went ahead and changed it, and didn't charge me extra.

That's the last time I get my oil changed there. I will even pay to have someone else rotate the tires I bought from Neil Tire and Auto Service in Mattoon, Illinois, because I think they're nice, but incompetent.